A G.P. Vanier grad is recovering in an Edmonton hospital with third- and second-degree burns to his hands and face following a fire at the Horizon oilsands site near the Fort McKay First Nation.
Comox Valley resident Brett Forster, 20, was working on the Horizon Primary Upgrader in northern Alberta when a fire rocked the equipment Jan. 6, injuring five workers.
The Horizon site, about 750 kilometres northeast of Calgary, is owned by Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL).
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Forster’s cousin and family spokesperson Melanie Perkins. “He was beginning to train as a power engineer and was employed at CNRL for a month before the explosion.”
Perkins added her cousin, who was wearing coveralls that protected the rest of his body, was close to the explosion, which shot flames 480 feet into the air.
Forster was airlifted to the burn unit at the University of Alberta Hospital.
According to a press release from CNRL, the fire occurred at the cutting deck on coke drum 1B, one of four drums used on the site.
Forster graduated high school in 2009, and worked for the past two years at Quality Foods in Comox, said Perkins.
“He is one of the nicest guys you could ever know,” she added.
Family members flew to Edmonton last Friday, as Forster underwent surgery Monday and is receiving skin grafts to his hands. Perkins noted he is stable condition, surrounded by his family and girlfriend.
“His brave heart will help get through this difficult time,” she added.
Workers on the Horizon site returned to their normal shifts Jan. 7. Occupational Health and Safety and CNRL’s operations are working together to determine what caused the explosion.